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Posts Tagged ‘Insight’

Personal Development Tip: Finding Your Dead Zone

In Personal Development on May 23, 2012 at 3:08 am

I went off-roading yesterday with my b/f/f Mike. He has a red Jeep Wrangler 4×4 and it’s as much of a joyride as it is a chick magnet. Trekking through rocky back roads and dense forestry in Pennsylvania is a vivid excursion I recommend experiencing first-hand. Not knowing what’s to come at each turn, searching for the next “deep kick” was the best part.

We hit a lot of dead zones in Pennsylvania, and this really allowed us to get lost. I started thinking about the benefits of living out here and how wonderful it would be to get away. Technology fills a “space” in our lives, and if it is removed something else most likely will take its place to fill the void. This is the perk of living in a dead zone.

I had my Droid ready to roll so I could share my journey and relive the action, but my connection to the outside world was completely severed. (How often can you say that?) My world was reduced to three things: Mike, the Jeep, and the mush between my ears. It was liberating.

The benefits of being disconnected began to present themselves, clearly. I could explore my thoughts freely without feeling the constant tug of email alerts, text messages, (previously) draw something notifications, and phone calls—to name a few.

Imagine the creative royalties that would come with this freedom. This is my dead zone. I’ll help you explore your inner dead zone below. Sure, the Internet and people sending me these “interruptions” have their place and there’s certainly value in both parties, but try and recall the last time you had a nice cut of time for your thoughts to marinate. (A time and place for you to retreat.) The dead zone is a healthy way to cope with all of the data that is sent our way each day.

We usually have a room of our own, but there are devices that can be distracting. We’re bred to be connected, as this is human nature, and we create culture hubs to unite one another. It just so happens that our hubs are made up of wires and signals. Wireless carriers pitch this to you every day: Zero drop-offs. No more dead zones! Who’s in your top-5? are forms of keeping you on the grid. The same can be said for social networks (e.g. G+ circles) and various tech-social platforms. We thrive on being connected and we assign value to being connected.

News flash: there’s [also] value in being disconnected. The reasons and benefits to escape are up to you, and you need not go far to make this a reality.

Discovering your dead zone

It’s not rocket science–all that it took for me to discover my dead zone was a joyride in a Jeep. The ah-ha! experience is nice, but here are three simple tasks you can do to discover your dead zone:

  • Define your dead zone. Make a list of conditions that constructs an appealing state of being for what you wish to accomplish.
  • Identify what distracts you and seek to eliminate the stimuli. For example, I have 9 tech toys that have a screen—all of which require active participation (no matter how small or large).
  • Execute the plan. Manage the little things and draft a call to action.

I understand relocating to a remote island or even to a place with bad service (like spots in PA) as a call to action isn’t realistic for most people. It’s easier to set up some hoops for the outside world to jump through, first, in order to reach you. Creating your own dead zone is also a chance to marshal self-control, which in practice has its own perks.

Here are some suggestions to discovering your own dead zone:

Know your limits. Think about what facilitates progress [in a project or organization] and what inhibits production. I assess the risks and rewards of opening up to the digital matrix because this is something I struggle with. Use a style that you’re familiar with, like the pros and cons approach. If you have difficulty assigning limits, ask some friends or colleagues.

Create a routine. This is a long-term objective to accomplish two major goals: (1) develop consistency and (2) manage the expectations of others. Having a set schedule is an easy way to do this. Regularly allotting time for yourself or something you would like to pursue in a controlled environment sends a firm message: Interruptions are only to occur when urgent. You don’t have to disappear for hours, but if people know you like to take a walk or workout at 1 p.m. they’ll generally leave you to your business without taking offense to it.

Keep your vices in check. If you really want to create a dead zone, make sure your vices are accounted for. If they help you work, entertain them properly. (E.g. cigarette breaks.) But if you identify a vice as harmful, perhaps it’s better to check that one at the door. It’ll be there when you get back.

Know your environment. Having an environment that is built for you, to entertain all of your senses, is a plus. Sight, sound, taste, smell, touch – these are all sources of inspiration and development. So make the most of them and have fun with it. If the smell of coffee arouses you, set up a mini coffee bar. (I have a soft spot for vinyl records.) The aesthetics should not be overlooked when making your dead zone.

Turn off the cell phone. I mentioned limits in the first point, but this deserves its own section. Some applications like foursquare have a Mute button that disables push notifications, when you need a break. That’s beautiful. (Thanks Foursquare.) If this isn’t an option, search through an application’s settings menu. Here, you can curb unwanted interruptions or at least control them. (E.g. change what you receive notifications for.) There’s also airplane mode which turns off most of your device’s signal transmitting functions. You’ll still be able to use the device locally. If all else fails, turn the phone off.

These practices work for me, but they may not work for everyone. The beauty of the dead zone is that each person has their own unique idea. What are some things you do to break away?


Addicted to Speed: My Behavior in the Digital Age

In Digital Communications on May 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm

The digital era has made it so that the average human must process more information than ever before. The days when news traveled slowly through a few select sources (think: pre-Web 2.0) is over. I recently read an HBR blog post that approximately said: we’re so used to going fast, due to the ubiquity and high rate-exchange of information online, that we simply can’t slow down. (Unfortunately, I can’t remember the article this was featured in.)

This is a personality trait I struggle with, and I am not alone. I recently had this experience while sitting in the passenger seat of a car, while my friend was driving. The go fast mentality was in full-effect. She stopped at a yellow light, changing to red. I was impatient [and slightly frustrated] with her decision, because we were now stuck at a red light. Note: This is a good, safe decision. Why was I so perturbed? In part, I was feeling this way because it wasn’t my decision to stop, but I’m glad she did. I learned something about myself.

In haste, my first thought was: who likes being stuck at a red light? But it’s OK. I don’t need to be going fast all the time. Slowing down here and there has something to offer us too—just like going fast. Whether it is just to “veg-out” for a moment or to stop and think. It’s easy to forget this, especially when a lot of us spend most of our time online, bonding with each other via screen and keyboard. Conversational notes practiced with clicks and return strokes rather than punctuated voice are normal cues. The online world has become a regular experience and it’s easy for these experiences to permeate our behaviors in the physical landscape.

Our participation with each other via technology affects our participation in real-time face-to-face exchanges. You must remember, though, that you are in control of this. All it takes is to be mindful of your actions. I’ve noticed changes in my own behavior as well as others, particularly because of this blazing speed we’ve become accustomed to. Common symptoms to the speed addiction are: impatience, frustration, and sometimes anger. It’s not intentional and nor is everyone like this, but it happens. You don’t always need to go fast. Fast is nothing without slow, right? We’re dealing with issues of perception. In order to assess fast, we need slow. The same way we need to look at our behaviors in digital platforms and physical environments.

Remember this: The yellow lights are just as important as the green (going) and red (stopping) lights. They are a reminder that we have the will to make decisions and the time to think about them.

Do you have a moment to share where you blew a fuse or short-circuited? Share it below in the comments section of this post.

Business Aside, Everyone Should Read HBR Blogs

In Business & Marketing on May 19, 2012 at 10:51 pm

I follow @HarvardBiz for the diversity. It’s simple: Harvard Business Review attracts smart people across the entire spectrum of the human experience. (Note: they don’t have an “About” page to tell you this. And that’s cool.) Their mission, it seems, is to garner unique perspectives and paths traveled to help you get there.

And the result is? Valuable insight with style and form that’s useful to the reader. Harvard Business Review is “A to Z” (sorry Amazon), not just B (for business). They know that insight comes from all directions, and business is almost happenstance, because a business background isn’t the only shtick worth wielding. Business does not have to be your thing or interest, HBR has something to offer you. Don’t be foolish: visit the next chance you have. (Which is right now, if you’re reading this.) I can only tell you to go there, you must see it for yourself.

What blogs do you follow? Have you visited The HBR Blog Network?

OMFG! Why You Should Erase Draw Something

In Business & Marketing on May 19, 2012 at 8:39 am

One of the rules for getting more email subscribers, which I recently discovered from Copyblogger, is: face objections head-on. In this inspection, CB suggests not to over-update. Updating too much can create the “Oh shit!” response and ruin any chance of keeping your subscribers. I think the same can be said for the App market.

This means that Draw Something (free) is dead to me. I’m reminded, in what feels like every 15 minutes, to draw my friends. This is an update. And it happens too frequently for my taste. I know Frank, Tina, Marie, Roxanne, and a slew of others are waiting for me.

This is (was) the beauty of Draw Something, being able to play multiple friends at once. I know the app is there and I know what to do with it and I know how to get there. I don’t need to be interrupted, reminding me to play. The costs outweigh the benefits here. (“Free” isn’t always free.) So it’s gone.

It never used to be like this, until I recently updated their App. (Funny, I know.) Before, it was streamline: download and play. No pesky updates. Someone should draw up a new strategy over at OMGPOP. It makes me wonder: did they have the user’s experience in mind with this? The updates I receive could be from my Draw Something friends nudging me, repeatedly. But still. Even if it’s an update generated by fellow users, shouldn’t OMGPOP do something to curb this feature? For me, it’s time to erase this app and move on.

After you uninstall Draw Something, please check out Copyblogger. There’s tons and tons and tons of great reads for you to explore in the content marketing realm. Make sure it’s a good look. CB deserves it.

Are you a yellow jacket or a human? Most are yellow jackets.

In Business & Marketing on May 17, 2012 at 10:02 pm

How often do we see someone take a swing at a yellow jacket? (When it’s warm, pretty frequently.) And either they succeed in killing it or get stung because they made a slight miscalculation. Most people will tell you they don’t like bees and their behavior changes if one gets too close. The bottom-line value being protected here is safety. We, as the human, want to feel secure and have peace of mind.

An analogy for the big business/start-up can be seen in nature versus nurture. Imagine big business is the human, and the start-up is the yellow jacket. The human innately possesses more resources and abilities than the yellow jacket, making it a near immovable force and frequent “winner.”

But the human fears the yellow jacket, because of its agility and potential. Big business also doesn’t understand the start-up, which can be a huge advantage. The yellow jacket is predictably irrational and the human will attempt to control its movement, so keep buzzing. As a start-up, be careful not to overextend yourself too—or you’ll have the whole tribe beating your hive like a piñata.

The Convenience Effect, or Making Yourself too Accessible

In Business & Marketing on May 17, 2012 at 7:41 am

Have you ever heard of the choice effect? The choice effect suggests that when one is faced with an overwhelming total sum of choices the final decision is less likely to fulfill the expectations of your desires (the reason for this choice to begin with). The convenience effect is similar. Broadly stated, the convenience effect suggests that when ‘X’ is too convenient, ‘X’ provides diminishing returns.

I live with four guys and it’s easy for things to messy. Here’s a simple exercise I carried out in my apartment: after a cleaning binge, I moved the microwave from the kitchen counter to a shelf that is higher up (requiring a chair to use). My housemates don’t use it as much because it is more difficult to reach (cost). This means that those who do use the microwave get more out of it (returns); particularly a cleaner experience, but the time is always reset and all of the working parts (tray, door, etc.) are accounted for too. These are small differences, but they matter. The choice effect doesn’t work in this case because it’s not a matter of choice but accessibility.

One example in business is and provides services for all job seekers and employers and provides services for 100K+ jobs and 100K+ people. The difference here is a simple barrier to entry, or participation. It’s important to find the right barrier to entry for yourself or your business to get results. is another market that exercises this strategy.

There are some examples that defy the convenience effect, like Wikipedia where anyone can contribute content. But other measures are taken to keep the convenience effect in check, like moderators. Craigslist is a good counterargument: high accessibility and ease of use, with few controls in place to manage content. This comes at expense to the user who must filter search results and posts to find value. (A bad experience.)

Finding the right level of convenience can make or break the glass ceiling. I’m not suggesting your business should move its microwave but it’s an analogy for the way you should be thinking about your business. How is your business “accessible” to the target market? How is your business “accessible” to employees? Each analysis will be different depending on the resources available and results that are desired. Think of how you can manage barriers to entry and accessibility—to create quality returns—and you will master the convenience effect.